Susan Garner Eisenman
Attorney and Counselor at Law

~ Positive Legal Solutions with Loving Parents ~

Private Adoptions

In private adoption, the legal custody of the child goes directly from the biological parent to the adopting parents under the supervision of the probate court.  Its jurisdictions require that you employ an attorney to work with the court system.  The attorney will obtain court approval of your home as a prospective adoption placement, make arrangements concerning medical and legal fees, oversee the initiation of parental rights, collect important social and medical information concerning the child and be a liaison with the birthparents.

You can obtain a referral to an adoption attorney in much the same way as you would any other professional.  You may wish to ask your family attorney (if you have one) or other attorneys you know.  You might wish to ask other people that have adopted if they can recommend an attorney.

Other referrals can be obtained from your local bar association.  The Columbus Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service number is 221-0754.  The local probate court may be willing to commend an adoption attorney.  The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys maintains a referral list of attorneys who are experienced in the in the area of adoption throughout the United States.  They can be contacted at American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, P.O. Box 33053, Washington, D.C. 20033-0053.

If you have a physician or other intermediary who has agreed to make a biological mother referral for you, they may designate an attorney to whom the referral will be made for you.  This designation may or may not be negotiable.

Some attorneys have their own intermediary sources which provide birth name referrals  for their clients.  Others merely finalize referrals made by intermediaries located by the prospective adoptive parents.  Sometimes an adoption attorney is able to assist prospective adoptive parents in developing a referral network for themselves and to utilize the appropriate placement finalization system.  Prospective adoptive parents may utilize resumes and introduction letters for networking purpose.  Some couples send out hundreds of these letters.  Whatever the source once the placement is found, the attorney will provide the necessary expertise and legwork to finalize the adoption.  There are many interstate sources for private adoptions which you may wish to research.

Different attorneys utilize different procedures for allocating available biological mother referrals.  Often the birthmother assists in selecting the couple for the child.  Other times, the referring physician or other intermediary selects a couple for the child.  Attorneys may also attempt to match the child's background to that of the adopting parents.  Thus, most private placement lists do not show progress in purely chronological order.

Attorney fees may be based on a per adoption basis or may be hourly and therefore vary from adoption to adoption.  Your attorney should be able to give you a projected fee range.  It is increasingly common for there to be separate attorneys for the adopting parents and the birthmother in private adoption.

Not all referrals end in a successful placement.  It is quite common for families to work with a number of referrals before they obtain a placement..  Birthmothers are allowed to change their plans at any time up to the 72 hour hearing.  If the birthmother is found by the clients or a referral is made for them and after extensive preliminary planning the birthmother fails to place, the prospective adoptive parents may be responsible for some attorney fees.  The attorney involved  is providing legal services, not insuring placements.  Some attorneys compensate themselves for these losses by charging a relatively high flat hourly rate (for example, double the normal rate) for the placements which are successful to compensate for the unbillable time when placements fail.  Other attorneys refuse to follow up on adoption leads which are not "iron-clad" to avoid unbillable time.  Attorneys who do little adoption work may be able to afford to write off all or a portion of the fees as a public service.  Other attorneys may disclose the possibility of fees for failed placements at the beginning of the relationship and then bill clients for time actually expended, perhaps at reduced rates.  All of these options are somewhat problematic.  It is appropriate to ask for a written explanation of the calculation of legal fees at the beginning of the attorney client relationship. 

In addition to a private adoption, the adopting parents pay the medical costs and counseling costs.  These costs normally cannot be calculated with precision after the birth.  However, a good estimate  should be available based upon assumptions made by the attending physician as to the probable course of pregnancy.  Although unexpected cesarean and other complications do occur, "normal" birth expenses can range from $2,000 to $7,000.  Cesarean deliveries range from $4,000 to $9,000.

If you are paying birth mother expenses, you may wish to consider adoptive insurance which will reimburse you if the birthmother opts to parent after you have paid her costs.

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